Though Scorcese and Ridley Scott (as well as the bias-carrying folks over at Netflix) may diverge from this opinion somewhat, the cinema is dead narrative doesn’t quite fit in with the reality. Sure, people continue to head out in troves for the latest generic superhero-franchise films, as well as various reboots that feel as if they’re not worth the effort it takes to look at the screen for more than 5 minutes. However, whether it’s artistic integrity, weighty character development, drama, comedy, or just comforting action-adventure you’re after, there are both recent and more distant examples of fine cinema to be consumed by your senses. Better yet, some of the greatest of these films were actually shot, either in part or in full, in Scotland’s fine capital city.
So if you’re after a rundown of the cream of the crop north-of-the-border-shot films, you can direct your attention some of the cinematic wonders, silly-thrilled adventures, and all-round classics mentioned below.
If an article about fine, Edinburgh-located films were to omit what is perhaps among one of the greatest films of the last 50 years, you would have to begin to question the validity of said article. One of the most iconic opening sequences of all time featuring Renton-and-friends’ fleeing from the police, was filmed between Princess Street and Calton Road, as well as passing through Regent Bridge.
The fact that Trainspotting is often recognised as one of the best British films ever made alone justifies its position in this list. If that’s not enough, the darkly comic writing, as well as exquisitely well-filmed and well-directed scenes of the movie, surely earn it a spot as one of the best films ever shot in Edinburgh.
The 2008 independent sci-fi film may not have wowed the critics nor touched upon Scotland’s capital city, but the successful TV series based upon is, in these respects, a different story. The TV series has not only impressed critics and fans alike (evidenced by its 91% Rotten Tomatoes score), but has also featured some of Edinburgh’s prime areas of beauty in its scenes.
Locations contained within this series range from Preston Mill (East Linton, East Lothian) through to the portrayal of the Duke of Sandringham’s stately home by Hopetoun House in South Queensferry. If that doesn’t convince you, then perhaps the fact that the Season 1 opening credits being filmed in Glencoe might hold some muster.
Some pivotal scenes from this 5-century epic starring Tom Hanks just happen to have been filmed in Edinburgh. James D’arcy and Ben Wishaw featured in scenes containing the Scott Monument, while the India Buildings, the City Chambers, and Victoria Terrace (the latter involving a tense chase scene), also feature in this blockbuster smash-hit.
Da Vinci Code
This Dan Brown adaptation may not be a film of artistic integrity or finely-tuned character development, but Professor Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) is central to the unfolding of the action in this film, which features the beautiful Rosslyn Chapel in one of its most crucial scenes.
Chariots of Fire
This Oscar-winning tells the wonderful story of rivalry-turned-partnership between two athletes, culminating in their appearance and success at the 1924 Olympic games. It is an iconic piece of cinema, but many are not aware that among its many filming locations were Inverleith Park, Holyrood Park, Assembly hall, and Broughton Mcdonald Church (playing none other than The Scots Kirk, Paris).
You won’t find Filth on many lists of films filmed in Edinburgh (Roger Ebert gave this one a mere 1/4 rating) but this film, based on Irvine Walsh’s novel of the same name, is a worthy mention here. Filth was both set and filmed in Edinburgh, making it doubly worthy of a place on this list. After all, this darkly comic and altogether strange exploration of James McAvoy’s character’s descent into a questionable frame of mind features the entrance to Edinburgh Castle in its opening scene, as well as scenes filmed on the cobble stoned Victoria street and an amusing scene filmed at The Grassmarket.
You’ll find famous locations such as the Walford Astoria Celdonian Hotel and the City Art Centre contained within the scenes of this 2007 comedy, cantered around Hallam Foe’s suspicion that his stepmother is responsible for the murder of his mother. Though not the most well-known film in this list, it also features lesser-known locations such as the gorgeous Innerleithen Valley and Cockburn Street.
The Angel’s Share
Though the lion’s share of this movie is set in Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands, the aforementioned Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel plays host to some of the characters’ whisky meeting. You’ll also find locations such as Edinburgh Castle, The Mound, and Princess street in this 2011 Scottish comedy classic.
This romantic drama is a heart-warming tale of Emma and Dexter, whose meeting at Edinburgh University leads to a life of romantic entanglement, around which the film is based. A notable section of the film featuring a romantic scene was filmed at an intersection between Moray Place and Forres Street. You’ll also find Arthur’s Seat, Parliament Square, Victoria Street, and Calton Hill within this movie’s scenes.
Long-time fans of Trainspotting waited nervously for this film’s release, pondering whether it would be hugely disappointing or a roaring success. It ended up getting a reception somewhere in the middle, but nonetheless, this long-awaited sequel is more Edingburgh-heavy with its filming locations than the original. You’ll find scenes filmed at famous locations like Princes Street, Scottish Parliament, Arthur’s seat, as well as locations recognisable by locals such as Cav Nightclub, the Commercial Street Jobcentre, and Muirhouse shopping centre.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
A classic from 1969, this film is a magnificent adaptation of Muriel Spark’s well-known novel, filmed mainly at Edinburgh Academy, as well as Greyfriar’s Churchyard, Dalmeny House, and Barnbougle Castle. This film went on to win a plethora of award including Best Actress (Maggie Smith), Best Song (Rod Mckuen), BAFTA Best Actress Maggie Smith), and Best Supporting Actress BAFTA (Pamela Franklin).